In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).
Water and Sanitation
“In an exciting move for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) community, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 (S 641), bringing the bill one step closer to becoming a law,” PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog reports (Petoskey, 6/20). “The bill, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), has broad bipartisan support in the Senate,” the ONE Blog notes, adding, “If enacted, the bill would provide better access to clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest communities through an efficient and cost effective strategy” (Brennan, 6/20). “The House [HR 3658] and Senate versions of the legislation have some differences, but ultimately, both seek to provide safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for millions of people, largely by improving upon the 2005 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act and making the way that the United States provides foreign aid on water and WASH projects more efficient,” advocate Elizabeth Shope writes in the Natural Resource Defense Council’s “Switchboard” blog. She asks representatives to “call on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to move the bill” (6/20).
The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Thursday launched the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., during a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing the effort.
“Bangladesh, a country crisscrossed with rivers and canals, has one of the highest drowning rates in the world,” the Guardian reports. “More than 17,000 Bangladeshi children drown every year — nearly 50 a day, according to the Bangladesh health and injury survey [.pdf], conducted in 2003,” the news service writes. “A report by UNICEF and the Alliance for Safe Children (Tasc) has found that the cause of death in roughly one in four children who die between one and 10 years of age is drowning,” making “drowning the leading killer of children in Bangladesh, overtaking diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia,” the Guardian adds.
“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”
U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).
“U.N. Development Goals for better drinking water have already been reached, but a closer look shows that the measures fail to truly account for the lack of access to safe water,” Scientific American reports in a feature story. “[J]ust because water is pouring out of a spigot does not mean that it is safe to drink,” the article states, adding, “In poorer areas, where infrastructure and sanitation are often much worse, even sources of water that have been ‘improved’ are frequently at risk for contamination by human and animal feces, according to recent analyses.” The magazine details a number of studies on the issue and concludes, “[W]hether there are 800 million or 1.8 billion people who lack safe water, the scourge of preventable deadly diarrheal and other waterborne diseases will continue to plague too many” (Harmon, 5/21).
U.N., International Community Should Pledge To Improve Water, Sanitation In Haiti To Mitigate Cholera Epidemic
“The cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began in late 2010, is bad and getting worse, for reasons that are well understood and that the aid community has done far too little to resolve,” a New York Times editorial states, adding that the “Pan American Health Organization has said the disease could strike 200,000 to 250,000 people this year” and “has already killed more than 7,000.” The editorial says the U.N. “bears heavy responsibility for the outbreak,” as it is suspected that U.N. peacekeepers introduced the disease to the island nation, and it notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that “cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.”
Science Academies Issue Statements To Inform G8 Leaders On Water, Energy, Resiliency To Natural Disasters
“Scientists from 15 countries are calling for a better political response to the provision of water and energy to meet the challenge of feeding a world of nine billion people within 30 years,” Reuters reports. The leaders of “some of the world’s leading science academies” issued several statements on Thursday “ahead of the G8 summit in the United States” as “part of the annual lobbying effort aimed at focusing the attention of world leaders on issues the scientific community regards as crucial,” the news agency writes (Wickham, 5/11).